With dwindling coal stocks, India stares at possible power crisis in hot summer

Even as a large part of India is reeling under the grip of an intense heatwave, dwindling coal stocks are threatening a huge power crisis over the next few months. With peak power demand in April due to the onset of early summer, coal reserves in several states are quickly running out threatening disruptions in power supply.

Coal reserves have dwindled to a critical level and 12 states may face an energy crisis, the All India Power Engineer Federation (AIPEF) told CNBC-TV18. The country had faced an energy crisis in October last year when coal reserves dwindled as global logistical and internal production issues led to a major coal briquette shortage.

India needs a significant amount of coal at all times to ensure uninterrupted power supply but as electricity demand peaks before season, thermal power plants have had to dip into their already meagre coal reserves to continue their power generation. Power generation demand hit a 38-year-peak in the first two weeks of April. As a result, power shortage in India increased to 1.4 per cent. In comparison, during the coal shortage crisis in October, power shortage was only at 1.1 per cent.

While production hasn’t been adversely affected, the demand for coal has increased rapidly. Demand for coal has increased by 9 per cent over the previous year, with the heat wave to partially blame for the increase.

States like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Jharkhand and Haryana are currently looking at potential power issues with Gujarat and Maharashtra already declaring load shedding. The Centre has asked states to import coal for up to 10 percent blending to deal with the present crisis. Stakeholders have also blamed state power discoms for not bringing their reserves up in line with future demand. Power plants had an average stock of only nine days at the beginning of the FY 2023, the lowest since at least 2014, reported Reuters. Power plants are required to keep a stock of coal for at least 24 days.

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